While it is one of the most spectacular walks New Zealand has to offer, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is not for the faint of heart! The Tongariro National Park itself is home to the Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu volcanoes, which are still active.
It took seven hours to complete The Crossing, and I was feeling the 19.4 kilometers (12 miles) I hiked afterward. Several times on this walk I began to wonder if maybe Kiwis hate tourists and this is how they dispose of them — that was until I unwittingly walked the rim of a volcano and saw the views pictured above!
I will add that the following Maori quote ran through my mind a few times during the steep climb (1,886 meters or just over one mile) to the top: “Waiha e koe ki te iti kahurangi; ki te tuohu koe, me maunga teitei.” Translation: Seek the treasure you value most dearly; if you bow your head, let it be to a lofty mountain. (Or maybe a few volcanoes!)
There is an interesting Maori legend that explains how the area formed. For more information, the following Wikipedia entry offers a fairly accurate description of what we were told by locals: Mt. Taranaki legend.
On the way down, there was one last great view!